For two days at the end of June, around 90 students from Bishop of Llandaff and Fitzalan High schools were invited to Llandaff campus for a unique experience in our biomedical science laboratories.
Over the course of the two sessions I got a feel for what it is like to be one of our lecturers, doing countless demonstrations for pupils and answering whatever questions may be directed at me.
During the second day I also had a valuable insight into the laboratory technician’s job behind the scenes not only preparing all the samples and experiments but cleaning up afterwards and making sure the labs are always clean and safe.
On the first day, the students learnt about the microorganisms in the environment by swabbing various surfaces, watches, jewellery and coins culturing each along with another nutrient filled agar plate comparing the cleanliness of their hands before and after washing them.
We even set up an experiment to see how many sheets of toilet paper should be used by using an E. Coli solution to simulate human waste. Some of the students also took swabs of the inside of their nose to look for the growth of Staphylococcus Aureus which can cause disease under certain conditions, living innocently in some people. To finish the morning, the students took some of the cells from the inside of their cheek to stain on a microscope slide allowing them to see some of their own cells.
We waited until after lunch before introducing the students to the world of food poisoning! We asked them to create a series of dilutions of either milk or a liquified ham sandwich so that an estimate of the bacterial numbers could be obtained.
As most of the experiments done in the first day needed time for the bacterial colonies to grow to be visible, the first thing done on the second day was analysing results by counting the number of bacterial colonies on each plate and looking at the interactions between the colonies seen.
The students split for the afternoon and I helped a group load DNA for separation and analysis, the same process used by forensics teams nationwide. All the pupils thoroughly enjoyed analysing their results whether good or bad.
I thoroughly enjoyed this opportunity and would like to thank everyone who made it possible!
Looking for more like this? Check out Andrew’s science outreach experience at Green Man festival.